Meditation Articles Series

How meditation can change your emotional and physical health

There has been a lot of scientific research that now confirms the benefits of meditation on all levels of health; physical, mental and emotional. In this blog I’d like to talk about the emotional side of good health.

Why we avoid unpleasant emotions.

When we have a strong emotion that we don’t like, for example, anger, rage, or fear our tendency is to try to avoid it. We don’t want to feel the sensations in our body. They are painful. Children are so often taught to numb down their emotions. They are told, “Don’t cry.” “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” and so on. Growing up children can come to look upon emotions as bad and to shut them down so as not to lose love or approval.

What happens when we suppress emotions.

What research shows is that suppressed emotions don’t go away. They are locked into the cellular tissues as cellular memory in our bodies. Physiologically what happens is that signals are sent through the body from chemical reactions taking place when, for example there is anger. These reactions cause contraction in the organs and a reduction in blood supply and nutrients to the cells. Emotionally we feel ill at ease and over time this can lead to disease.

What to do when emotions arise in your meditation practice.

In meditation emotions will arise sooner or later. They can present in all sorts of ways from memory flashbacks to physical changes in the body with accompanying feelings of agitation or discomfort. I have experienced extreme panic as fear came up during a meditation session.

What to do when emotion arises in your meditation practice? Some people will just get up and walk away as they become overwhelmed. However, the emotions haven’t gone away and can come back even more strongly at another sitting. Often at this point people will give up their practice altogether.

Here are some suggestions that may help when there is an emotional response that you’d rather not have in your meditation. First of all accept what is happening, even welcome it because your body is ready to integrate this emotion otherwise it would not be there. Become fully engaged in it. Observe all the sensations around it, from the strongest to the subtlest. Get as much out of it as you can, love it, embrace it and surrender to it. Even if the sensations become more intense I can assure you that you will not fall apart or go insane. That could well be what the mind is telling you will happen. Keep on relaxing into the emotion by using your breath to breath in and out of the strongest sensations wherever they may be in your body. At some point in the very essence of what seems to be an “unbearable” emotion resides peace. You can come to that essence of peace in your very worst emotions. When you experience this you will have the courage to befriend all your emotions that you may have dismissed as unacceptable. They are not bad as you may have been taught. They are the portal into freedom and fully living the expression of life in happiness that is your true nature.

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